Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ridgewood Historic District Approved by Landmarks Commission

 Mathews Flats Houses Improved Conditions for Working Class

By Eric Yun

For a borough many feel gets overlooked when discussing New York City’s rich history, Queens had its day in the spotlight when the City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated multiple properties as historical sites last week.

As a result of last Wednesday’s LPC hearing, the Ridgewood South Historic Designation became a reality, and a hearing date was set to examine a proposal for a central historic district in Ridgewood. Several properties in Jamaica, including the Grace Episcopal Church Memorial Hall, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Building, the former Jamaica Savings Bank and Queens General Court House, were given landmark status as well.

“These measures build upon the strong record the Commission has established in the past seven years of protecting the architecturally significant buildings and sites that speak to the development and history of Queens,” said Landmarks Chairman Robert Tierney.

The Ridgewood South Historic District comprises 210 buildings and is bordered by Woodward and Onderdonk avenues to the north and south and Catalpa Avenue and Woodbine Street to the east and west. Also included in the area is the St. Matthias Roman Catholic Church complex.

Ridgewood was a farming community until the late 19th Century, but transportation improvements ignited residential and commercial development in the area. Particularly, German Americans moved to Ridgewood to escape overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in the Lower East Side, Bushwick and Williamsburg.

In 1911 and 1912, the G.X. Mathews Company built affordable tenements, known as the Mathews Model Flats in the area which featured two, five-room apartments per floor, with its own bathroom. Architecturally, the buildings were constructed with smooth light-colored brick that still remains today.

It was a good day for Ridgewood, and some hope the designation will help beautify the neighborhood. “It’s always good to recognize the past,” said Vincent Arcuri, Chairman of Community Board 5. “Maybe this will entice more people to fix their properties.”

This is the second historic district for Ridgewood. The Ridgewood North Historic District was approved by the City Council last year. The north district includes 96 buildings along Gates, Fairview, Grandview and Forest avenues and Woodbine and Palmetto streets.

The Ridgewood Central Historic District may not be far behind. Located mostly between Forest Avenue and Fresh Pond Road to the east and west and Madison Street and 71st Avenue to the north and south, the proposed district was calendared, which means a full review of the district for a future vote.

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